hotline header

An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

July 14, 2009

Is Israel preparing to attack Iran's nuclear facilities? Is the U.S. granting permission?

Dear Friend of FLAME:

While the Obama administration's posture on the Middle East has so far seemed disproportionately to favor Arab interests and to exert unwelcome pressure on Israel (the United States' only ally in the region), we've seen a possible change in U.S. tone over the last few weeks, particularly with regard to Iran.  In addition, Israel seems to be laying the strategic groundwork for an attack on the terrorist state's growing nuclear capability.

Here's the background: A few weeks ago, an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine for the first time in years sailed from the Mediterranean through the Suez canal to the Red Sea. This means that apparently Israel has negotiated access with Egypt to pass through the canal to the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea.  Since Israel's submarines have the ability to deploy nuclear-tipped and conventional missiles, such access would give Israel convenient (instead of taking the very long route around Africa) second-strike support for an attack on Iran.

Next, we read that Saudi Arabia had given Israel approval to use their airspace for a military attack on Iran. According to the (UK) Sunday Times, Mossad chief Meir Dagan held secret meetings with Saudi officials, who gave their tacit approval to Israel's use of the kingdom's airspace. According to a diplomatic source: "The Saudis have tacitly agreed to the Israeli air force flying through their airspace on a mission that is supposed to be in the common interests of both Israel and Saudi Arabia."

Then last weekend Vice-President Joe Biden said in an ABC interview that Israel has the right to determine its own course of action with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat, regardless of what the Obama administration chooses to do. When asked whether the Obama administration would restrain Israeli military action against Iran, Biden responded: "Israel can determine for itself---it's a sovereign nation---what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else . . . If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice."

This sounds as close to a green-light signal as you can get. But given Biden's propensity for shooting his mouth off, it's not entirely clear if U.S. policy toward Iran has changed.

But if Biden is signaling approval, it would be a big shift from Obama's Cairo speech, in which he declared that no one country could determine if another could acquire nuclear weapons. Is Obama now allowing Israel to be the world's nuclear watchdog while he assumes some grand position of neutrality, sitting above the fray and unwilling to assert American military power even if facing a nuclear-armed Iran? If Obama is not going to stand up to Iran himself, it's certainly a good thing indeed to signal that Israel can defend itself and indeed the rest of the region.

Perhaps most importantly, if both Egypt and Saudi Arabia are feeling fearful enough of a nuclear-armed Iran to clear air and sea space for an Israeli attack, it takes the starch out of Obama's contention (and that of many others) that a Palestinian-Israeli peace is the linchpin for securing Arab-Western cooperation.  In point of fact, resolution of the Palestinian question has little to do with defusing the Iranian threat or of achieving a greater Middle East peace.

For evidence that the Obama administration may be beginning to realize this---and to realize the deterrent value Israel can play vis a vis Iran, we offer Israeli commentator Aluf Benn's analysis from HaAretz newspaper---a concise summary of the emerging situation.

(Thanks to our friend Seymour Kessler of Berkeley Bridges to Israel for inspiring this FLAME Hotline and offering much of the analysis in it.)


Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME


If you agree that Iran presents one of the greatest dangers to Israel, the United States and to world peace in general---please review the recent FLAME position paper---"The Deadly Threat of a Nuclear-Armed Iran: What can the world, what can the USA, what can Israel do about it?"  While the Obama administration wants to focus on an Israel-Palestinian agreement before resolving the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, common sense---and this powerful FLAME position paper---tell us otherwise.  This editorial piece has run in national media delivering more than ten million impressions, including to college students and all U.S. Senators and Representatives.  We also recently posted another excellent article on the significance of recent demonstrations in Iran, called "The prescience of protest: What the dissidents know about Iran," by Natan Sharansky, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Please check it out.  Above all, if you agree that FLAME's outspoken brand of public relations on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's ability to influence public opinion---including the misguided inclination to hold Israel solely responsible for peace in the Middle East---comes from Israel's supporters like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that Israel gets the support it needs---from the U.S. Congress, from President Obama, and from the American people.

P.P.S. President Obama has asked for input from U.S. citizens on his Middle East policies.  To give him yours, please go right now to write the President.

U.S. wants Iran to know it can be attacked
by Aluf Benn, Haaretz, July 7, 2009

Iran's nuclear program has been restored to prominence on the American-Israeli diplomatic agenda. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adopted the "two states for two peoples" formula on the Palestinian issue, American recompense came in the form of Vice President Joe Biden's statement that Israel, as a "sovereign nation," will decide for itself how to deal with Iran.

George Stephanopoulos, the ABC television presenter to whom Biden made this remark, thrice asked him how the U.S. would respond if Netanyahu took independent action on Iran. Biden did not hesitate. The U.S., he said, "cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do" if they feel threatened by another country.

That is almost exactly what Condoleezza Rice, former president George W. Bush's secretary of state, said when asked the same question a year ago. However, Biden declined to say whether the U.S. would allow Israel to overfly Iraq en route to Iran.  Biden's words should not be understood as American permission for Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. Rather, they were a veiled warning to Iran that if it does not embark on a serious dialogue with President Barack Obama's administration, it is liable to be attacked.

An Israeli government source said Biden's statement was not coordinated with Israel. But it clearly serves Netanyahu, who sees halting Iran's nuclear program as a historic mission.

In recent weeks, Israel's diplomatic attention has been diverted from Iran to Washington's demand for a settlement freeze. The person who returned Iran to center stage is John Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who has become the Republican Party's leading spokesman on foreign affairs. In an article published in The Washington Post last week, Bolton said an Israeli attack is now the only way to halt Iran's nuclear program.

Netanyahu, in contrast, has lowered his profile on Iran and stopped warning of a "second Holocaust" if Iran obtains nuclear weapons. Instead, he has adopted his predecessors' policy of working behind the scenes to send the message that Israel's patience has limits. This message has been conveyed in various ways: the passage of an Israeli nuclear submarine through the Suez Canal, with Egyptian consent, thus bringing it closer to Iran; ambassador-designate to Washington Michael Oren's statement this weekend that a nuclear Iran could "wipe Israel off the map" in an instant; and the leak (swiftly denied) to the Sunday Times that Saudi Arabia had agreed to let Israel Air Force jets overfly it en route to attacking Iran.

Israeli officials argue that Iran's apparently fraudulent election and its brutal suppression of the subsequent demonstrations reveal the pointlessness of talking with Tehran and the need for stiffer sanctions. The statements of the last few days are meant to bolster this message with hints of possible military action.


How many times have you heard someone lament that Israel doesn’t have good public relations? By supporting FLAME, you help one of the world’s most powerful information efforts to spread the truth about Israel and the Middle East conflict. Please note that because FLAME is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, your donation is tax-deductible. Click here to make a donation.


If you know of a friend or colleague who would appreciate learning more Facts and Logic About the Middle East, please forward this issue of the FLAME HOTLINE to them by clicking here.


If you have received this issue of the FLAME HOTLINE from a friend or colleague and you'd like to subscribe, please click here.

Our Ads and Positions | Donate | Our Letters to Editors | Our Acquisition Letters | FLAME’s Purpose | Subscribe to Hotline Alerts | Home

©2008 FLAME. All rights reserved. | Site Credits | Contact Us